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Respiratory Diseases in Kenya Linked to Increased Use of Firewood

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In Kenya, respiratory diseases have become a major public health issue, exacerbated by the increasing use of firewood for cooking. Economic challenges have driven more people, especially in rural and low-income urban areas, to rely on biomass fuels, which has significant health repercussions.

Jane Muthoni, a 65-year-old resident, is surrounded by firewood in her makeshift kitchen. Like many others, she suffers from respiratory issues due to prolonged exposure to smoke but feels she has no alternative. “I’ve used firewood all my life,” she says. “Sometimes I cough from inhaling the smoke, and my eyes itch, but there’s nothing I can do about it” .

Respiratory diseases are the most prevalent health issues in Kenya, with 19.6 million cases reported last year. The burning of biomass such as firewood is the largest contributor, according to Evans Amukoye from the Kenya Medical Research Institute’s respiratory diseases research center. Common symptoms include itchy eyes and coughing, with severe cases leading to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which restricts breathing .

Data from the Ministry of Health indicates that COPD accounts for 1.7% of deaths in Kenya. The disease primarily affects those in low-income areas who have less access to healthcare and are more likely to use traditional cooking fuels .

Economist Abraham Muriu attributes the increased reliance on firewood to economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing inflation. The number of households using firewood rose from 4.7 million in 2020 to 6.7 million in 2022 . In urban areas, the rising costs of living have led many to revert to cheaper, albeit more harmful, cooking methods.

Mercy Letting, a businesswoman in Nairobi, experienced health issues from using charcoal. “I am asthmatic, so whenever I used charcoal to cook, the smoke would always trigger an attack,” she said. She eventually switched to an eco-friendly cooker and an induction burner, which significantly improved her health and reduced her costs .

While companies like BURN Manufacturing are developing cleaner and more efficient cookstoves, affordability remains a significant barrier. Chris McKinney, BURN’s chief commercial officer, emphasized the need for affordable clean cooking solutions to ensure widespread adoption .

The reliance on firewood in Kenya has severe health implications, particularly respiratory diseases, driven by economic constraints. While clean cooking technologies offer a solution, their high cost remains a barrier for many. Addressing this issue requires a multi-faceted approach, including economic support and affordable technology to improve public health outcomes.

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Ireland Must Step Up: Urgent Call to Support Asylum Seekers Affected by FGM

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FGM Activist Ifrah Ahmed Demands Better Care for Pregnant Women and Female Asylum Seekers.

Ireland, a nation known for its progressive stance on human rights, is being called out for failing to adequately support asylum seekers affected by female genital mutilation (FGM). The prominent Irish-Somali anti-FGM activist, Ifrah Ahmed, has voiced her disappointment over the current state of care for these women, especially pregnant asylum seekers housed outside of Dublin. Her powerful words demand urgent action and cast a spotlight on a troubling gap in Ireland’s support system.

While visiting Nairobi, Kenya, this week, Tánaiste Micheál Martin met with Ifrah Ahmed, a survivor of FGM and a tireless campaigner against this brutal practice. Ifrah, who sought asylum in Ireland in 2006, expressed pride in the support her activism has garnered in Ireland but stressed that the support for newly-arrived asylum seekers is far from sufficient.

Female genital mutilation, a horrific procedure involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, leads to severe health complications, including severe bleeding, urination issues, cysts, infections, and complications during childbirth, often resulting in newborn deaths. In Somalia, the prevalence of FGM is alarmingly high, with 98% of women undergoing the procedure.

Ireland Must Step Up: Urgent Call to Support Asylum Seekers Affected by FGM

Ifrah’s frustration was palpable as she spoke to Irish reporters in Nairobi. She lamented the ongoing need to campaign for basic medical support for young women in Ireland. A critical issue she raised was the lack of female translators during medical appointments, which is vital for ensuring comfort and understanding for FGM survivors. She also highlighted the stark disparity in care between women in Dublin and those in other parts of the country.

Reflecting on her own experience, Ahmed recalled arriving in Ireland without knowledge of the dangers of FGM until a healthcare worker informed her. She considers herself fortunate to have received the support she did, a stark contrast to the grim reality faced by many women today. “There are many refugee centres outside Dublin, and we should not forget about their humanity. We should remember these women,” Ifrah emphasized, noting that the influx of asylum seekers in recent years has exacerbated the situation.

Ifrah recently met with a group of female asylum seekers in Dublin and was deeply moved by their harrowing stories. The stark contrast between her experience and theirs filled her with a sense of shame and urgency. “It made me really uncomfortable telling them my story because when they were telling me the things they have been through, the support they needed, they could not get,” she said.

At the very least, Ifrah argues, there should be medical leaflets on FGM and specific training for doctors working outside of Dublin. The Tánaiste, Micheál Martin, responded to her concerns by acknowledging the unacceptable disparity in care. “I will talk to my colleagues in that regard in the Department of Health and Children to make sure that access is there. We have many major hospitals outside of Dublin; there’s no excuse for that. I’ll work on that,” he assured.

Ifrah Ahmed’s organization, the Ifrah Foundation, continues to campaign tirelessly against FGM. The foundation’s ‘Dear Daughter’ campaign in Somalia encourages individuals to pledge to protect their daughters from FGM, with 100,000 pledges made so far. Ahmed remains hopeful that the Somalian government will soon pass legislation to outlaw FGM, a goal that has long seemed elusive.

“I have been so disappointed for so many years, but I am now sure that it will be different and they will actually successfully pass the bill,” she said.

As Ireland grapples with this call to action, it stands at a crossroads. Will it rise to the challenge and ensure that all asylum seekers, regardless of where they are housed, receive the care and support they desperately need? The eyes of the world are watching, and the voices of those like Ifrah Ahmed demand to be heard.

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Eswatini-Belarus ties spark health care advances

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Ambitious Collaboration Aims to Enhance Medical Infrastructure and Training in Eswatini

Eswatini has initiated a significant health care collaboration with Belarus to address critical medical needs and enhance its healthcare system. Led by Prime Minister Russell Dlamini, an Eswatini delegation signed an agreement with Belarus in June, aiming to improve access to essential medicines, medical equipment, and training for healthcare professionals. This partnership is expected to introduce new healthcare models and alleviate procurement challenges.

Eswatini faces severe health issues, including the world’s highest cervical cancer incidence and a high HIV/AIDS prevalence. The country also suffers from a shortage of healthcare professionals and inadequate rural healthcare services. This collaboration seeks to mitigate these problems by bringing in Belarusian expertise and resources.

For individuals like Sheila Coleman, who lost family members to chronic illnesses due to the lack of advanced care in Eswatini, this partnership offers hope. However, there are concerns regarding the benefits for Belarus and the focus areas of the joint venture, such as research, imports, or local pharmaceutical production.

Dr. Thys Louren highlights the potential benefits, including job creation, skill attraction, and technology transfer, but cautions that the collaboration’s success depends on addressing these critical questions. As the partnership unfolds, the people of Eswatini await the potential transformation of their healthcare system, hoping for an era of medical breakthroughs and improved care access.

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Gambia lawmakers back recommendations to maintain female genital mutilation ban

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As Gambia Faces a Crucial Vote, Lawmakers Back Report Calling FGM “Torture” and “Discrimination Against Women”

In a pivotal moment for women’s rights in Gambia, lawmakers have endorsed recommendations to uphold the country’s ban on female genital mutilation (FGM), despite a looming vote that could potentially decriminalize the practice. The 2015 ban, which marked a significant step towards protecting women and girls, faces renewed scrutiny as the nation grapples with its deeply rooted cultural traditions.

The debate reached a fever pitch on Monday, culminating in the adoption of a report by the joint health and gender committee. This report, which describes FGM as a “traumatic form of torture” and “discrimination against women,” was passed with 35 lawmakers voting in favor, 17 against, and two abstaining. The final decision on the bill to decriminalize FGM is set for July 24, a vote that could make Gambia the first country to reverse such a ban.

The push to decriminalize FGM gained momentum after the first convictions under the ban last year, when three women were found guilty of cutting eight infant girls. This conviction sparked outrage among certain factions, prompting independent lawmaker Almaneh Gibba to propose the repeal bill in March. Gibba, supported by influential religious leaders, argues that the ban infringes on citizens’ rights to practice their culture and religion in the predominantly Muslim country. However, many Islamic scholars and health experts firmly reject this view.

Amadou Camara, the lawmaker who presented the committee’s report, warned that repealing the law would be a “significant setback for the Gambia.” The report’s findings were based on a comprehensive national consultation involving religious and traditional leaders, doctors, victims, civil society groups, and circumcisers. The overwhelming consensus from these consultations emphasized the harmful and discriminatory nature of FGM.

Despite the cultural defense mounted by proponents of the repeal, the World Health Organization (WHO) maintains that FGM has no health benefits and can cause severe physical and psychological harm. The practice, which involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia, can lead to excessive bleeding, infection, complications in childbirth, and even death.

The debate over FGM in Gambia is not just a clash between modern human rights standards and traditional practices; it is also a battle for the future of women’s rights in the country. The outcome of the vote on July 24 will have profound implications, not only for the women and girls of Gambia but also for the broader international community’s efforts to combat FGM globally.

For now, the endorsement of the committee’s recommendations provides a glimmer of hope for those advocating for the protection of women’s rights in Gambia. However, the upcoming vote will ultimately determine whether the country will maintain its commitment to ending this harmful practice or succumb to the pressures of cultural conservatism.

As Gambia stands at this crossroads, the eyes of the world are watching. The decision made by its lawmakers will signal whether Gambia chooses to uphold the rights and dignity of its women and girls or takes a step backward into a past marked by pain and inequality.

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The Mpox Epidemic in the DRC: A Deepening Crisis with Global Implications

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The Democratic Republic of Congo faces the largest mpox outbreak ever recorded, raising concerns about transmission, healthcare capacity, and regional risks. Learn about the epidemic’s origins, spread, and global implications.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is grappling with the largest outbreak of mpox, formerly known as monkeypox, in recorded history. Declared an epidemic in December 2022, the viral disease has infected tens of thousands and continues to spread, with new transmission patterns raising alarm among health experts.

The current mpox epidemic began in May 2022 in the eastern Kwango province and has since expanded to 22 of the DRC’s 26 provinces, including the capital, Kinshasa. The epicenter of the outbreak remains in the eastern regions, particularly in the mining town of Kamituga in South Kivu province, where a new strain of the virus has been identified.

Traditionally, mpox has been zoonotic, transmitted from animals to humans. However, this outbreak has seen a significant shift, with the virus spreading primarily through sexual contact. This new mode of transmission is particularly prevalent in Kamituga, where there is a large population of sex workers, many of whom face economic and health vulnerabilities.

As of June 2023, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported over 21,000 cases and more than 1,000 deaths. In 2023 alone, 14,626 cases and 654 deaths were recorded, with children under five making up 39% of the cases and 62% of the deaths.

Mpox has two primary clades: Clade 1 and Clade 2. Clade 2, involved in the 2022 global outbreak, is less deadly, with a survival rate exceeding 99%. In contrast, Clade 1, predominant in the DRC and the cause of the current outbreak, is more severe, potentially fatal for up to 10% of those infected. The newly discovered strain in Kamituga is particularly concerning due to its novel sexual transmission route and atypical presentation of symptoms, primarily genital lesions, complicating diagnosis and tracking.

The DRC faces significant obstacles in managing the outbreak. Ongoing conflict in the eastern regions, limited healthcare resources, and inadequate testing facilities hinder effective response. Only two laboratories in Kinshasa and Goma are capable of testing, and only 18% of reported cases have been confirmed in labs. Additionally, there is a shortage of treatment kits and vaccines, crucial tools for containing the virus. Public awareness and compliance with isolation measures are low, exacerbated by the stigma surrounding sexually transmitted infections.

The DRC’s geographical position and porous borders with nine countries heighten the risk of regional spread. Neighboring countries like Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and Tanzania, as well as Zambia, Angola, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan, face heightened risks due to frequent cross-border movements. Limited healthcare infrastructure in these countries further amplifies the threat of a wider epidemic.

The ongoing mpox outbreak in the DRC presents a complex public health challenge with significant regional and global implications. Addressing this crisis requires a multifaceted approach, including increased healthcare resources, enhanced public awareness, and international cooperation to prevent further spread. As history has shown with diseases like COVID-19, infectious outbreaks do not respect borders, and vigilance and preparedness are crucial to mitigating their impact.

International support, including vaccine donations and healthcare aid, is essential to help the DRC combat this outbreak. Global health organizations and neighboring countries must collaborate to enhance surveillance, provide medical supplies, and raise public awareness to contain the spread of mpox effectively.

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Should Social Media Carry Health Warnings Like Cigarettes?

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In a bold move reminiscent of the 1960s anti-smoking campaigns, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has issued a stark warning about the dangers of social media, particularly for young people. He suggests that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok should carry health warnings similar to those found on cigarette packages. This proposal has ignited a fierce debate about the role of social media in our lives and its impact on mental health.

In a recent New York Times article, Vivek Murthy outlined his concerns about the mental health risks posed by social media. He pointed out that children are particularly vulnerable to the content they consume online, which can lead to various mental health issues. Murthy believes that warning messages, similar to those mandated on cigarette packs since 1966, could serve as a crucial reminder of the potential dangers.

Murthy’s call comes in the wake of his 2023 public health advisory linking social media use among youth to poor mental health. He advocates for more stringent controls, including banning phone use in schools and limiting device use during meals and bedtime. While there is no definitive study proving these measures’ efficacy, Murthy insists that increased awareness is a vital first step.

The suggestion to place warnings on social media is not without precedent. The first health warnings on cigarette packs appeared in the U.S. in 1966, following a report by Surgeon General Luther L. Terry that linked tobacco to lung cancer. This move significantly raised awareness about the dangers of smoking, and similar warnings were later adopted worldwide.

Murthy argues that the success of these anti-smoking campaigns can be replicated in the fight against the negative effects of social media. He believes that explicit warnings could encourage parents to monitor their children’s online activities more closely and make informed decisions about their digital consumption.

The impact of social media on mental health remains a contentious issue. Some studies suggest a clear link between excessive social media use and mental health problems in young people, including depression, anxiety, and decreased life satisfaction. Pediatrician Gin Lalli supports Murthy’s proposal, emphasizing that warning messages could be a significant step towards improving mental health outcomes.

However, the evidence is not unanimous. A 2023 study found no direct link between Facebook use and mental health issues, highlighting the complexity of the relationship between social media and well-being. This mixed evidence fuels the ongoing debate and underscores the need for further research.

The issue also resonates within the Somali community. Dr. Mohamed Hassan, a UK-based physician, highlighted the potential mental health risks posed by social media to Somali youth. He supports the idea of health warnings and emphasizes the importance of community awareness and education.

Parents who have lost children to internet-induced distress are among the strongest advocates for these measures. Their tragic experiences underscore the urgent need for action and the potential benefits of health warnings on social media.

The proposal to place health warnings on social media is both provocative and controversial. It raises essential questions about our digital age’s responsibilities and the balance between freedom and protection. As we navigate this complex issue, it is crucial to consider multiple perspectives and remain open to new research findings.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a safer online environment for young people, where the benefits of social media can be enjoyed without compromising mental health. Whether through warnings, education, or stricter regulations, society must find effective ways to address the risks posed by our increasingly digital lives.

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In many US cities, Black and Latino neighborhoods have less access to pharmacies

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Black and Latino Neighborhoods in U.S. Cities Struggle with Reduced Access to Essential Pharmacies

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA — In parts of Montgomery’s north side, the absence of vital services like pharmacies underscores a growing issue faced by many historically Black neighborhoods. Sharon Harris, a resident of Newtown, a predominantly Black area, expresses her frustration as the local pharmacy closed five years ago, forcing her to travel four miles to fill prescriptions.

This scenario is not unique to Montgomery. Across the U.S., numerous major retail pharmacies have shut down hundreds of stores in recent years, and independent pharmacies often struggle to remain operational. The result is a significant reduction in access to pharmacies for residents of color, who rely on these establishments not only for prescriptions but also for fundamental public health services, including vaccinations and over-the-counter medicines.

Dima Qato, a professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Southern California, emphasizes the broader implications: “Closures create a situation where there’s not just a lack of investment in pharmacy development and expansion, but there’s no incentive to stay in those neighborhoods.”

An Associated Press analysis of licensing data from 44 states, the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs, and the American Community Survey reveals that majority Black and Hispanic neighborhoods have fewer pharmacies per capita compared to predominantly white neighborhoods.

In Cleveland, MAC Pharmacy serves about 20,000 people in a predominantly Black ZIP code. George Tadross, the pharmacy manager, ensures personalized service for his mostly elderly clientele. “You have to have a pharmacist to talk to,” Tadross states, highlighting the critical role pharmacists play in managing chronic diseases prevalent in these communities.

Language and cultural barriers further complicate access. Jasmine Gonzalvo of Purdue University’s College of Pharmacy notes that pharmacists who reflect their customer base can build stronger rapport and trust. This is crucial for patients who might otherwise struggle with medication adherence due to communication issues.

In Elizabeth, New Jersey, Bert’s Pharmacy addresses these challenges by maintaining bilingual staff and providing Spanish-language labels and instructions. Owner Prakash Patel ensures that his predominantly Hispanic customers understand their medications fully.

Montgomery’s north side is undergoing development planning, with analysis showing a small pharmacy could generate $1.5 million annually. Bob Gibbs of Gibbs Planning Group, which conducted the analysis, sees an opportunity due to the residents’ loyalty to local businesses. However, Harris remains skeptical about new developments: “I don’t see it happening,” she says, indicating a lack of faith in seeing new pharmacy openings soon.

The struggle for accessible pharmacies in Black and Latino neighborhoods is a significant public health issue, necessitating attention and action to bridge the health disparities exacerbated by these closures.

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Preventing Kidney and Gallbladder Stones: Essential Tips

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The human body has remarkable abilities, but sometimes these abilities can lead to problems, such as the formation of stones. Commonly, we hear about kidney stones and gallstones, but the body can produce stones in other areas as well. Understanding the causes and preventive measures for these stones can help maintain better health.

Understanding Kidney Stones and Gallstones

Kidney Stones:

  • Kidney stones are solid masses made of crystals. They typically originate in the kidneys but can develop anywhere along the urinary tract.
  • One in ten people will experience kidney stones at some point. They often consist of calcium and oxalate or phosphate, which are chemicals normally present in urine.
  • Kidney stones vary in size, from less than a millimeter to several centimeters, and in shape.

Gallstones:

  • Gallstones form in the gallbladder, primarily from cholesterol and bilirubin.
  • These stones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball, and individuals may have one or multiple stones.

Common Symptoms and Complications

Kidney Stones:

  • Severe lower back pain.
  • Painful urination.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Gallstones:

  • Sudden and intense pain in the upper right abdomen.
  • Back pain between the shoulder blades.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Other Types of Stones in the Body

Salivary Stones:

  • Form in the salivary glands, blocking saliva flow.
  • Can cause pain and swelling, often leading to infection.

Tonsil Stones:

  • Form in the crevices of the tonsils.
  • Can lead to bad breath and discomfort.

Preventive Measures

1. Hydration:

  • Drinking plenty of water is crucial. Proper hydration helps dilute the substances in urine that lead to stones.

2. Dietary Adjustments:

  • Reduce intake of foods high in oxalates such as spinach, nuts, and tea.
  • Limit salt and animal protein, which can increase calcium and uric acid levels in the urine.
  • Maintain a healthy weight to reduce the risk of gallstones.

3. Oral Hygiene:

  • Regular brushing and flossing can prevent the formation of salivary and tonsil stones by reducing bacterial accumulation.

4. Balanced Diet:

  • For gallstones, avoid high-fat foods and maintain a balanced diet rich in fiber.
  • Monitor cholesterol intake to prevent gallstone formation.

Medical Treatments

Kidney Stones:

  • Small stones may pass naturally with increased fluid intake.
  • Larger stones might require medication or surgical procedures such as shock wave lithotripsy or ureteroscopy.

Gallstones:

  • Surgery (cholecystectomy) to remove the gallbladder is often the best solution for recurrent gallstones.
  • Non-surgical options include medications to dissolve the stones, though these are less commonly used.

Conclusion

Stones in the kidneys, gallbladder, and other parts of the body can cause significant discomfort and health issues. By staying hydrated, maintaining good oral hygiene, and following a balanced diet, you can reduce the risk of stone formation. Should stones develop, various medical treatments are available to alleviate the problem. Proactive steps and timely medical intervention can ensure better health and prevent complications associated with stone formation.

For further detailed information and personalized advice, consulting healthcare professionals is always recommended.

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Weight-Loss Drug Forecasts Soar to $150 Billion as Supply Increases

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May 29 (WARYATV) – Projections for annual global sales of weight-loss drugs have skyrocketed to approximately $150 billion by the early 2030s, driven by increasing supply, potential for wider usage, and a growing number of competitors. This marks a significant leap from the $100 billion range estimated just a year ago.

The surge in demand for weight-loss treatments from pharmaceutical giants Novo Nordisk (NOVOb.CO) and Eli Lilly (LLY.N) has been a major factor in this upward revision. These companies are ramping up production to meet the needs of millions of people seeking effective weight-loss solutions.

Michael Kleinrock, senior research director at healthcare analytics firm IQVIA Institute for Data Science, commented on the phenomenon, stating, “It is very unusual to have a medicine that is capturing the imagination of millions of people.”

The burgeoning market for weight-loss drugs reflects a broader shift in public interest and acceptance of pharmaceutical interventions for weight management, spurring increased competition and innovation in the field. As supply chains strengthen and new entrants vie for market share, the industry is poised for unprecedented growth in the coming decade.

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